Monday, May 20

Tips For Building An Interesting World

Tips For Building An Interesting World

Today I'm world building.

And, no, I'm not talking about my on-again, off-again, obsession with Minecraft.

Sometimes a world reveals itself in a rush of inspiration and all I have to do is write it down.

Other times, like today, I'll grab onto a great character who seems to come ready-made, reminding me of Stephen King's writers-as-anthropologists analogy, where all we're really doing is uncovering stories, not creating them. If that's the case, many of my villains, my "big bads," (also see the discussion of the Big Bad trope over at come from the ground fully-formed. All I have to do is brush off a bit of dirt, perhaps reattach an arm here, smooth down a bump or two there, and the character is complete; though of course riddled with flaws and strong, counter-productive, desires.

I've been doing some research for the hero of my story, trying to make him as vivid, as memorable--and, frankly, as likable--as my villain. (When one writes one learns about oneself, so I wonder what that says about me! Wait, don't answer that. ;)

In any case, today Janice Hardy published a wonderful article on world building that is (as always) oh-so-very helpful to writers in the trenches. Her advice helps if you're just starting the world-building process or if you're pulling your hair out because something isn't working with the world you've created/discovered.

Janice Hardy's Tips For Building An Interesting World

1. Color. Use it.

Janice writes: "[I]n my current WIP, color denotes status and is used as an identifier."

Interesting! That book is going on my To Be Read list. Janice writes that, in general, color can ...

Color can have a practical, aesthetic, or spiritual reason. Just like purple was used for royalty due to the rarity of the dye, another color might be scarce in your world and have particular uses and meanings behind those uses.
I admit, what color means isn't something I thought about when building the world of my WIP, but it's a great idea.


Are certain colors rare, perhaps only available to the very rich and powerful? If so, you have a great way to show a character's wealth or status.


Are certain colors forbidden?  Are they considered taboo or perhaps they are sacred to one or more gods?

2. What materials do your societies use?

Janice writes:
Different colored stones occur in different regions, or wood from the trees, or even metals mined from the ground. Coastal dwellers might use mud bricks but those who live in heavy forest areas build with wood. A desert culture probably isn't building with wood and stone, and anyone who does is likely to be wealthy or powerful enough to import them in. What materials the population has on hand goes a long way to how they create their cities and the things in those cities.

  • What building materials are nearby?
  • What's imported? Exported?
  • What are common household items made from?
  • What are luxury items made from?
  • What are considered luxury items?
Janice also talks about how to use a societies views on art, as well as their decorations, to help build a world and make it interesting. I encourage you to read her entire article: World Building Tips Learned at the Louvre.

Do you have any tips/tricks for how to flesh out a world and make it interesting? If so, please share!

Other articles you might like:

- The Key To Being A Productive Writer: Prioritize
- Indie Writers Can Now Get Their Books Into Bookstores
- What Do Aaron Sorkin, Stealing, And Advice About Writing Have In Common?

Photo credit: "time flies" by Robert Couse-Baker under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

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